Thursday, April 9, 2009

priestly duties

So, when I tried to get into the spirit of drawing a response to the Leunig figures I like so much (looking for a kind, human figure) this is what came out. I am not so surprised that he is a priest. I am surprised that he looks so traditional. I like that he has bare feet.

Around the time that I drew this I was reading Ben Myers' posts on William Stringfellow, which gave me a lot to think about. In particular, this piece on ordination. I agree that there is a lot of confusion on the role of priests/pastors/vicars - particularly around their full time status, which can make the rest of the church sound like lukewarm amateurs. One of the distinctives from my Baptist past that I recently became aware of again is 'the priesthood of all believers.' Although there was a paid pastor, the church I went to in my teens and twenties rarely had the same person preaching at consecutive services. I benefit from this even now.

All of that said, I have a very high view of priests as partners (priest being shorthand for someone who has been formally ordained) and remembered this Stewart Henderson poem while I was drawing. I am also posting this today because the the poem turns to reflect on The Priest Jesus, remembering him in the garden, 'beside himself'.


What should a priest be?
All things to all -
male, female and genderless.
What should a priest be?
reverent and relaxed,
vibrant in youth,
assured through the middle years,
divine sage when aging.

What should a priest be?
accessible and incorruptible,
astemious, yet full of celebration,
informed, but not threateningly so,
and far above
the passing souffle of fashion.

What should a priest be?
an authority on singleness,
Solomon-like on the labyrinth
of human sexuality,
excellent with young marrieds,
old marrieds, were marrieds, never
marrieds, shouldn't have marrieds,
those who live together, those who live
apart, and those who don't live anywhere,
respectfully mindful of senior
citizens and war veterans,
familiar with the ravages of arthritis,
osteoporosis, post-natal depression,
anorexia, whooping-cough and nits.

What should a priest be?
all-round family person
counsellor, but not officially because
of the recent changes in legislation,
teacher, expositor, confessor,
entertainer, juggler,
good with children, and
possibly sea-lions,
empathetic towards pressure-groups.

What should a priest be?
On nodding terms with
Freud, Jung, St John of the Cross,
The Scott Report, The Rave Culture,
The Internet, The Lottery, BSE and
Anthea Turner,
pre-modern, fairly modern,
post-modern, and, ideally,
secondary-modern -
if called to the inner city.

What should a priest be?
charismatic, if needs must,
but quietly so,
evangelical, and thoroughly
meditative, mystical, but not
New Age.
Liberal, and so open to other voices,
traditionalist, reformer and
and hopefully, not on medication
unless for an old sporting injury.

Note to congregations
If your priest actually fulfills all of the above, and then enters the pulpit one Sunday morning wearing nothing but a shower-cap, a fez and declares "I'm the King and Queen of Venus, and we shall now sing the next hymn, in Latvian, take your partners please",-
Let it pass.
Like you and I
they too sew the thin thread of humanity.
Remember Jesus in the Garden -
beside himself?

So, what does a priest do?
mostly stays awake
at Deanery synods
Tries not to annoy the Bishop
too much
visits hospices, administers comfort,
conducts weddings, christenings,-
not necessarily in that order,
takes funerals
consecrates the elderly to the grave
buries children and babies
feels completely helpless beside
the swaying family of a suicide.

What does a priest do?
tries to colour in God
uses words to explain miracles
which is like teaching
a millipede to sing, but
even more difficult.

What does a priest do?
answers the phone
when sometimes they'd rather not
occasionally errs and strays
into tabloid titillation
prays for Her Majesty's Government.

What does a priest do?
Tends the flock through time,
oil and incense,
would secretly like each PCC
to commence
with a mud-pie making contest
sometimes falls asleep when praying
yearns, like us, for
heart-rushing deliverance

What does a priest do?
has rows with their family
wants to inhale Heaven
stares at bluebells
attempts to convey the mad love of God
would like to ice-skate with crocodiles
and hear the roses when they pray.

How should a priest live?

How should we live?

As priests
transformed by The Priest
that death prised open
so that he could be our priest
martyred, diaphanous and
matchless priest.

What should a priest be?

What should a priest do?

How should a priest live?

Stewart Henderson
from Limited Edition

We are all called to be priests.

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